The Humble Checklist!

Written by Do I Editorial

Seriously, how many of us make checklists? How many of us even consider it necessary? Well, if you really want to know how critical checklists are in today’s increasingly complex world, you MUST read ‘The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right’ by Dr. Atul Gawande.

Dr. Atul Gawande is an American physician and is a general and endocrine surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and associate director of their Center for Surgery and Public Health. He is also an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School.

Gawande points out that there are two kinds of errors that we can make – errors of ignorance (mistakes that we make because we don’t know enough) and errors of ineptitude (mistakes we made because we don’t make proper use of what we know). Many of the failures in today’s complex world are due to errors of ineptitude; that is, making mistakes because we didn’t go through all the steps needed to get a job done right. In certain cases, like surgery and flying, this can prove fatal. His solution, as outlined in his book, is startlingly simple – experts need checklists that guide them, step-by-step, through the key steps in a complex procedure or situation. What stops us from making thorough and foolproof checklists? Arrogance, perhaps?

Gawande’s book is replete with amazing examples where a proper follow up of steps have saved lives or effort and where they haven’t.  A quote in the book by Daniel Goodman, a Boeing aviation checklist expert, explains the importance of good checklists:

“Good checklists are precise.  They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use in the most difficult situations.  They do not try to spell everything – a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps – the ones that even highly skilled professionals could miss.”

Prepare a checklist for every project and certainly for major ones.  Following the steps in the checklist will ensure that you have covered all your bases and not left anything to chance.  This could prove invaluable – in reducing risks and improving the chances of success.

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